San Marco Preservation Society released its first book “Southbank Sojourn – A Photographic Journey Through the Early Days of San Marco and South Jacksonville” on October 1. The book costs $20 and all the proceeds are for the benefit of SMPS. It has been well received and is a limited edition. The author of the book is Robin Robinson and it was published by Silent E Publishing Company.
The story behind the creation of the book…
In 2003 when Councilman Matt Carlucci informed SMPS that the original City Hall building of the city of South Jacksonville was going to be vacant, SMPS made the decision to investigate the possibility of renovating the building and using it for its office. SMPS proceeded to renovate the building through a series of grants and the building was completed almost 5 years later in January 2008. It was at that time that the history of South Jacksonville came to light for many. I, for one, did not realize that it was a separate city from Jacksonville and existed from 1907 – 1932. In anticipation of the celebration of the grand re-opening of the building, I began contacting a couple of people whom I knew had ancestors who were part of the government of South Jacksonville. I first contacted Nancy Belote Felton whose grandfather served as councilman and mayor of the municipality for many years. Her father also served as councilman. She gave me a wealth of information from family photo albums and scrapbooks and led me to others with resources. I met with Hoke St. John whose grandfather was the first elected mayor of South Jacksonville and whose beautiful mother was selected as Miss South Jacksonville at the time the St. Johns River Bridge was built. I was amazed at the number of people I met whose roots go back to the early 20th century in our area. This began to peak my interest in researching the history of that era and the wonderful donations of many families lead to the idea of printing a photographic book to preserve the history of that era.
I was further fascinated with the fact that such an elaborate amusement park, “Dixieland,” once graced the south bank of the St. Johns River. It was certainly a forerunner to the Disney World we all love today. My research showed that it contained a bountiful mix of circus, theatre, zoo and fair. It seemed curious to me that none of its buildings survived.
Moving on to the development of San Marco, which has long been a subject of interest for SMPS, I again found families who were willing to share their photos, scrapbooks and memories of the time period. Until recently, 85% of the homes in San Marco were built before 1940, our neighborhood is a great representation of its time period. The developers, Stockton, Whatley and Davin, did a wonderful job of laying out our subdivisions.
Basically, it was the people of South Jacksonville and San Marco who were so eager to share their stories and their photographs which led to the formation of this wonderful book. It contains a treasure trove of photos of our beloved neighborhood.